Urban farm housing project moves forward in Santa Clara
Kirk Vartan, community housing activist and founder of A Slice of New York speaks about Agrihood at a news conference on July 22

An innovative housing project in Santa Clara that will feature a large urban farm will be ready to welcome tenants in 2023, officials announced Thursday.

A first-of-it’s-kind project, Agrihood will span 5.8 acres of land and include 160 mixed-income apartments, 165 homes for low-income seniors and veterans and 36 townhomes. The complex located at N. Winchester Blvd across from Westfield Valley Fair, will feature an 1.5 acre urban farm where residents can grow produce.

The new housing comes as officials estimate the number of  homelessness elderly residents to triple nationwide in the next decade.

“The economic fallout from the pandemic has created more affordable housing problems for seniors in one of most expensive ares in the entire nation,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez. “With baby boomers aging we will continue building permanent supportive housing and Agrihood could very well be the gold standard.”

The project will take 26 months to complete, and housing applications will be open in the summer of 2023, Chris Neale, vice president of The Core Companies, told San José Spotlight. Core Companies is the real estate development and construction firm building the project.

“As we get back to post pandemic normal our focus is to create a place where residence and neighbors feel welcome and in community with one another,” Neale said Thursday.

Agrihood accounts for roughly 10% of Santa Clara’s low- income housing target, according to previous estimates from Vince Cantore, vice president of development of Core Companies.

Through partnerships with San Jose and local affordable housing organizations, the county’s Office of Supportive housing will connect homeless people with a housing program to place them inside the complex.

In a 2019 survey conducted by the county Office of Supportive Housing, 40% of respondents who experienced homelessness were 51 or older.

Agrihood will be the county’s first mixed-income urban-farm based housing community.

“That’s something we should celebrate here in the heart of Silicon Valley,” Kirk Vartan, a community housing activist and founder of A Slice of New York, said at a news conference Thursday. “We want opportunities for seniors to remain active and engaged and independent.”

Construction for Agrihood is funded by $23.5 million in county Measure A funds, an affordable housing bond passed by Santa Clara County voters in 2016, $15.7 million from the city and a grant of $50 million in tax-exempt bonds from the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee.

The Santa Clara City Council approved development for the urban farm in January 2019.

Farmscape, an Oakland urban farming company, will help design and manage Agrihoods’ 1.5 acres of agricultural space.

Lara Hermanson, co-owner of Farmscape, said Agrihood’s urban farm has the potential to grow up to 20,000 pounds of produce. The food can be sold at produce stands around Agrihood for residents to buy.

The farm will also include a community room, produce stand and learning shed where residents of all ages can learn about agriculture and grow food on the farm.

“We’re going to be having, essentially, an intergenerational hangout on this farm,” Hermanson said.

Contact Stephanie Lam at [email protected] or follow @StephCLam on Twitter

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